Where Does Recycling Go?

Curbside recycling is collected by the City's contractor, F.W. Russell, from over 45,000 households, schools, city buildings, and many small non-profit organizations. There are five recycling trucks, one for yard waste, and one supervisor in a separate truck. The new trucks for single stream have one compartment, which compacts the recyclables.  The 2 side-loaders average about 3.5 tons per load and 3 rear-loaders average over 6 tons. Russell brings the material to Casella Recycling, 2.5 miles away in Charlestown, where it is weighed, sorted, baled and marketed.  About 150 recycling trucks bring loads there every day from about 50 communities in the Boston area. 

Click here for pictures and a short video of the recycling process!

Quality of recycling is very important because the materials are sold as commodities to manufacturers to make new products. Recyclables must compete with virgin materials and meet strict quality specifications set by the mills that buy them. Casella consistently reports that Cambridge loads are among the cleanest they receive.  Only 3-5% ends up as residue. So, we rely on your continued participation and commitment to recycle the right papers and containers. Drivers will reject recycling that has trash in it to avoid getting the whole load rejected, which increases costs and can result in material sent for disposal instead of recycling. So, remember, no plastic bags, no foam packaging, no VCR tapes, no light bulbs, and no clothing hangers. Also, make sure that containers and pizza boxes are empty and free from food residue.

Casella has invested millions of dollars into cutting edge sorting technology, to ensure safety, quality, and productivity. Hundreds of tons of recyclables are sorted daily along a series of conveyor belts. The first presort area is where employees remove non-recyclable materials such as plastic bags and foam packaging.  The first conveyor has rows of rotating disks that push cardboard over the top while small material falls below. Smaller disk screens then separate paper. Next, a magnet removes the metal cans.  Then the material is fed into another screen that breaks and removes the glass bottles and jars, which is then sorted clear from colored. Moving along, the eddy current creates a reverse magnetic field that repels aluminum cans into a separate bunker.  Plastics are sorted into their different types using optical sorting technology and strategically placed air jets that blow the items to a manual sorting conveyor.  Employees check again for unacceptable items before the material is baled.  Material that is not captured is re-circulated continually to ensure a quality sort and maximum recovery. Bales are compressed material wrapped with wire and ready for shipment by rail, truck or ship. 


 Material    Collected By Processed By   Where Does it Generally Go?  It Gets Made Into
 Aluminum & steel cans  Russell          Casella  USA  Metal products
 Plastic containers  Casella
 Containers & plastic lumber
 Glass containers         USA  Glass containers
 Mixed Paper      China  Tissue, corrugated material
 Newspaper  Canada / China  Paper products
 Cardboard  USA / China  Cardboard boxes
 Leaf & Yard Waste  Landscape Express  Massachusetts

 Mulch & compost products

Appliances     DPW Prospect Iron & Steel  USA / Turkey / India Metal products
 Electronics    Universal Recycling Technologies  USA / Korea Plastics, glass and metals are sent to commodity markets and made into new products.
 Christmas Trees      DPW  Massachusetts  Chipped into mulch; composted; used as landscape material by the Water Department.

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Dept of Public Works

147 Hampshire St
Cambridge MA 02139


Hours of Service

Monday: 8:30am-8pm
Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30am-5pm
Friday: 8:30am-12pm

Recycling Center Hours
Tuesday & Thursday: 4:00pm-7:30pm
Saturday: 9:00am-4:00pm

Ms. Randi Mail
Director of Recycling